A History of Bennettsville, South Carolina

Marlboro County Court House - Bennettsville, South Carolina

Bennettsville was founded in 1819 and named after Governor Thomas Bennett, Jr. It is the County Seat for Marlboro County.
"Bennettsville Is Near a Hundred" - Pee Dee Advocate Newspaper - 1919 [with very minor edits]

One hundred years ago the Marlboro County court house stood on the north side of what is now J. K. Matherson's wheat mill, in the village of Carlisle. It was so far from the center of the county, that the legislature passed an Act authorizing the construction of a new court house and jail at a more convenient and healthy place. The place was selected by a state engineer, as near the exact center of the county as a suitable building site could be found. The place chosen was "upon the great road leading from Society Hill to Fayetteville in or near an old apple orchard on the land of John S. Thomas."

Mr. Thomas lived near where the Presbyterian Church now stands, and his orchard extended back towards the creek. Main Street, was not then in existence, but the road lay further south, near Mr. Thomas' house, land connecting with what is now Fayetteville Avenue, which was then further north at that point. Mr. Thomas gave a deed for three acres for the court house site and public square, and it was recorded by William Bristow, clerk of court, on April 4, 1820. The court house was completed in 1824.

Bennettsville was named for Thomas Bennett, Jr., who was governor of the state from 1820 to 1822. Capt. J. A. W. Thomas, in his history of Marlboro County, gives the following list of male citizens of Bennettsville in 1826: John S. Thomas, Wm. Munnerlyn, Joseph D. Massey, Amos Galpin, Horace B. Thomas, Dr. Edward W. Jones, Dr Wm. Crosland, John McCollum, George Dudley, and Alex R. Brown. Sen. John McQueen settled here in 1827.

The growth of the town was slow for many years, and several of the old settlers moved away. The town was still a mere village when the American Civil War began. It had about a half dozen stores, thirty residences, Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, Masonic and Temperance lodges, a male and a female school, and a blacksmith and wood shop. There was no railroad in the county and freight had to be hauled from Society Hill or Garnner's Bluff.

Since the American Civil War, everything has changed in Bennettsville. There is perhaps no building of that time that still stands except the Cobb House on East Main Street. In 1884, the first railroad came - the South Carolina Pacific Railroad. Since then, the town has had a continuous growth till it now has about 5,000 inhabitants, including the mill village and other suburban residences not within the corporate limits which have not been extended to keep up with the growth of the city.

It now has a large number of beautiful, modern residences, splendid school buildings, handsome brick churches, a modern government post office building, a beautiful and impressive Masonic temple, five strong banks, a modern cotton mill, a steam laundry, a modern newspaper plant with Morgenthaler linotype and other up-to-date machinery and appliances, scores of stores, and imposing business structures. Bennettsville now has three railroads, the Atlantic Coast Line, the Bennettsville & Cheraw Railroad, and the Rockingham Railroad [?]. There are passenger trains arriving and leaving almost every hour during the day, from 6:30 AM to 10 PM and the freight facilities are excellent. The railroads have commodious modern brick passenger stations here and ample freight depots.

The first church in the county was the Welsh Neck Baptist church organized in January of 1738, at a point on the banks of the Pee Dee River, now marked by the Kolb monument. This church was the parent of Brownsville (first called Cashway), organized in 1789, Salem 1793, and Bennettsville. The latter came from Welsh Neck indirectly through Cheraw. It was organized in 1820 at Saw Mill about two miles north of where the old court house then stood. In about ten years the church was moved to Bennettsville. Rev. Campbell Stubbs was then pastor. He was followed by Revs. W. Q Battie in 1829. Rev. J. A. W. Thomas became pastor in 1849, and continued for 33 years, except during his service as a captain in the Confederate Army. Other pastors have been Revs. H. W. Beattie, R. N. Pratt, Rufus Ford, Chas. A. Jones, Rev. A. C. Sherwood, the present pastor, began his pastorate the first of last month.

The present building was in course of erection when the beloved Capt. J. A. W. Thomas died in 1896, and it was named for him, The Thomas Memorial Baptist church. The first Methodist church in the county was built at Beauty Spot in 1783. The first quarterly conference was held there on February 23, 1788, with Bishop Ashbury presiding. A second building was erected there in 1810, a third in 1839, and a fourth in 1883. All the Methodist churches in Marlboro are branches directly or indirectly, of Beauty Spot, the mother of Marlboro Methodism.

On June 21, 1834, Colonel William J. Cook conveyed to Thomas Cook, John L. McRae, William Dudley, John McCollum, Alexander J. Mittle, James C. Thomas, and Alex R Brown, trustees, the lot on which the Bennettsville Methodist church now stands on East Main Street. The present commodious brick building was erected about eight years ago. Since this church was made a station, it has been served by many prominent members of the South Carolina conference, including T. E. Wannamaker, J. L. Stokes, J. W. Daniel, W. S. Wightman, E. O. Watson, M. W. Hook, Charles B. Smith, C. W. Creighton, A. B .Watson, T. E. Morris, R. E. Turnipseed, and Peter Stokes. The latter has just finished his four year limit, and the church regrets that he cannot return.

One of the oldest Presbyterian churches in this section was Pee Dee, five miles north of Bennettsville. The old building yet stands, though the church was moved to Blenheim many years ago.

The Bennettsville church is an offspring of Pee Dee. In 1852, Hartwell Ayer sold to L. B. Prince and George Dudley, trustees, for $150, the acre lot on which the Presbyterian church now stands on Broad, McColl, and Liberty streets. The building committee was W. D. Johnson, Charles A. Thornwell, Neil McNeil, George Dudley, and J. Beattie Jennings. The church was built by D. A. Boyd of Virginia for $2800. The church was dedicated May 12, 1855. Revs J. C. Coit and A. D. Campbell conducted the services. The church was formerly organized Dec 1, 1855. Dr. James H. Thornwell had charge of the services. W. D. Johnson and J. B. Jennings were made elders.

Some of the pastors have been Revs. A. D. Campbell, P. E. Bishop, C. W. Wilson, E. H. Brist, Joseph Evans, D. S. McAllister, W. B. Corbett, J. E. Bailey, C. E. Hodgins, H. W. Burwell, Bunyan McLeod, and F. D. Viehe. The church has been without a pastor for several months, since the regisnation of Mr. Viehe. Last Sunday the church extended a call to Rev. George M. Wilcox of Walhalla.

During the pastorate of Dr. Bunyan McLeod, a handsome new brick building was erected. It had just been completed when it was destroyed by fire. In a few months the church had erected the present building, a duplicate of the one burned.

The oldest Episcopal church in this section is St .David's at Cheraw which was opened for worship in 1772. The first Episcopal church in Marlboro County was dedicated in Bennettsville in 1898 - St Paul's Rev. T. P. Baker has the distinction of being the first and the present rector of the church. He resided in Cheraw and preached here from the organization of the church for about two years. Then several other fields in this and other states for fourteen years and came back to Bennettsville and occupied the new rectory here last year. He is an able preacher and popular with all denominations.

Between Mr. Baker's first and present pastorate here the church had several excellent rectors, including Revs. Tracy R. Walch, C. W. Boyd, H. H. Lumpkin, A. E. Hay, Harry Plummer, A. S. Thomas, R. W. Barnwell, and E. A. Penick, Jr.

W.S. Rowe House - Bennettsville, South Carolina

Bennettsville was founded in 1819 as the county seat for Marlboro County, as citizens desired a more central location for their court house than the original site on the eastern bank of the Great Pee Dee River. A three-acre apple orchard situated on a bluff above Crooked Creek on the Great Metropolitan Stage Line from New York to New Orleans was selected. A court house designed by Robert Mills was constructed and streets and a square were designed.

Bennettsville was named after then Governer Thomas Bennett, Jr. After railroads reached Bennettsville during the 1880s, the economy boomed bringing with it a notable collection of both antebellum and Victorian homes surrounding the court house square, many of which are now housing a variety of businesses. According to local lore, the farmland here was so rich and fertile, it was once sold by the pound, not the acre.

Bennettsville was granted a U.S. Post Office on July 7, 1826, and its first Postmaster was Mr. Amos A. Galpin. It has been in continuous operation ever since inception.
Click Here to view / download a 2017 map of Bennettsville, SC. Adobe PDF file. Fairly large.

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